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  • My friend Cathy lives in rural northern New Mexico where a labyrinth of canals called acequias brings water from the river to irrigate the fields. It happens when the snow starts to melt in the mountains and to make its way along gravity's path. The use of acequias is a practice begun by the Spaniards centuries ago that found its way to some parts of the western United States. In New Mexico acequias are serious business with governmental controls, commissioners and a mayordoma, which was Cathy's job.

    In her rubber boots and work gloves, Cathy led a team who cleared the acequias of leaves and debris. She opened the valves, negotiated with neighbors, studied rain clouds, repaired breaches in the banks, read the language of the water.

    The word acequia comes from the Arabic word as-sāqiya, which means the one that bears water. It also means the barmaid. I wonder if Cathy knows that.
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